A Powerful Tool for Getting Insight into State Energy Policy

Hannah Miller | Thursday January 22nd, 2015 | 0 Comments

logo cneeAbout 80 percent of energy regulation goes on at the state level, estimates Jeff Lyng, senior policy analyst at the Center for the New Energy Economy in Denver. But until last year, finding out exactly what states were doing was incredibly labor intensive: One had to go to each individual state government website separately.

Last year, however, the center unveiled the Advanced Energy Legislation Tracker – a simple, comprehensive, easy-on-the-eyes database of state-level public policy from across the nation. You can check the status of PACE in Arkansas, feed-in tariffs in Hawaii, or gas-tax replacements anywhere: free and searchable. (The kind of thing that the American Legislative Exchange Council has had for a while.)

“Most of the energy business is regulated at the state level. And states are leading. The mission of this center is to work with states,” said Lyng. (CNEE is a part of Colorado State University, with former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter as its director.)

Energy is a hot topic now, judging from the volume of legislation being proposed: 489 policies were enacted last year and 713 the year before (the drop-off due to the state legislatures that hold abbreviated sessions in even years.)

Last month, the CNEE released its 2014 year-end report of state energy policy, covering the main policy categories (both for and against):

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Best Business Innovations of 2014

3p Contributor | Thursday January 22nd, 2015 | 0 Comments
Google passed

Google’s autonomous vehicles passed 500,000 driver-free miles last year. But that wasn’t the only buzzy-worthy business innovation of 2014.

By Debbie Fletcher

2014 saw a range of new innovations within the business world. Numerous companies won awards for their innovative ideas and services, and below you’ll discover some of the best.

1. Google leads the way

Internet giant Google led the way for innovations, developing numerous projects that could change the world (or at least the way you live and do business). Shopping Express is one of the company’s innovations, experimenting with the idea of same-day delivery. Very few companies offer this service yet it is something that many of us would love.

Another innovation from Google that did quite well in 2014 was its range of autonomous vehicles, which reached a milestone of 500,000 driver-free miles last year.

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Masdar Launching Desalination Project Powered by Renewables

Leon Kaye | Wednesday January 21st, 2015 | 4 Comments
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Masdar is betting this solar desalination project can transform this growing and energy-intensive industry.

Desalination is one reason why the Gulf region has enjoyed spectacular growth over the past two decades. Harvesting fresh water out of the sea is also one long-term economic and environmental problem that countries such as the United Arab Emirates will have to confront.

Effluent resulting from removing salts and minerals from seawater is often discharged into the Gulf, creating one environmental problem. And while most desalination plants in the Middle East are actually cogeneration plants that generate electricity from natural gas, heightened demand for power in the summer means many such plants generate more potable water than can be consumed. In turn, the unneeded water is released into the Gulf, creating even more ecological burdens. And at a pragmatic level, fossil fuels used to operate power-hungry desalination plants means less of them can be exported or even used for local electricity and power requirements.

Desalination fueled from solar or other renewables offer potential, but as of now the amount of energy required has not made renewable energy a viable alternative. A pilot project launched by Masdar in Abu Dhabi, however, could pave the way to a future where desalination could be possible with less of a carbon footprint.

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Yellowstone River Oil Spill Prompts State of Emergency

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Wednesday January 21st, 2015 | 2 Comments

Glendive_Yellowstone_River_oil_spill_TimEvansonResidents in the town of Glendive, Montana, have been told not to drink their water after an oil pipeline broke on Saturday, dumping an estimated 50,000 gallons of Bakken light crude into the Yellowstone River.

The breach was discovered approximately 10 miles upstream from the town of 6,000, which serves as the agricultural hub for eastern Montana.

A spokesperson for Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said the pipeline was shut down quickly.

“We think it was caught pretty quick,” said Dave Parker. “The governor is committed to making sure the river is cleaned up.”

By Sunday, however, residents in town were reporting an odd odor. Initial tests conducted on the town’s water supply indicated elevated levels of hydrocarbons, prompting officials to order a warning against drinking the water.

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Abu Dhabi Project Could Transform Aquaculture and Aviation Biofuels

Leon Kaye | Wednesday January 21st, 2015 | 0 Comments
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A pilot project announced this week could help revive mangroves in the Abu Dhabi region.

The Gulf region is certainly rife with ambition: In addition to the audacious architecture emerging in its cities, Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are competing to build the world’s largest airports — which means far more demand for aviation fuel. Meanwhile the vast majority of food consumed here is imported, meaning more investments to ensure food security that critics say are not much more than a land grab.

The fact this region has one of the world’s hottest and harshest climates has not stopped its rapid growth, in turn bringing up countless questions about the Middle East’s long-term sustainability. Add the questions of water with its demands for more desalination while aquifers have become depleted, and the future with more people and demand for resources does not look too promising. With 97 percent of the world’s water in oceans and 20 percent of its land desert, other countries will have to face this same dilemma.

But what if it were possible to grow food sustainably in the desert while creating aviation biofuels? A pilot project to launch later this year in Masdar City was announced yesterday at a press conference during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.

The Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC), an initiative of the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, has announced what it says will be the world’s first bioenergy pilot project to use desert land, irrigated by seawater, to produce both food and energy.

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Battle Climate Change With Sustain:Green’s New MasterCard

| Wednesday January 21st, 2015 | 0 Comments

Green MastercardYesterday, Sustain:Green launched a MasterCard that rewards its users with carbon offsets, giving individuals a way to reduce their carbon footprint and fund the Mata No Peito rainforest preservation project in Brazil.

Numerous studies point to manmade emissions as being one of the biggest factors in global climate change, and on the heels of the hottest year on record, Sustain:Green’s CEO, Arthur Newman, believes that a biodegradable credit card with carbon offset rewards is a welcome solution for customers looking for another way to live more sustainably.

After recycling, reusable grocery bags, and turning down the thermostat, the options most people have to reduce their carbon footprint usually fall into three categories, too difficult, too expensive, or not possible,” Newman said in a press release. “Just by using our card for purchases they would make anyway, consumers can shrink their carbon footprint for free, every day, while also helping to preserve rainforests critical to combatting climate change. We hope they will use the card in conjunction with other carbon reduction lifestyle changes, such as fuel efficient transportation choices.”

For every dollar they spend, Sustain:Green reduces card users’ carbon footprints by two pounds (fine print excludes cash advances and returned merchandise), and by an initial 5,000 pounds upon first use (within 90 days). There is a personal online dashboard where users can track their carbon offset credits and calculate their carbon footprint. The rewards are automatically recorded on the American Carbon Registry and 100 percent of the money spent buying carbon offsets to reduce users’ carbon footprints is allocated to the Mata No Peito project to preserve, protect and reforest Brazilian rainforests.

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Income Disparity and Sustained Economic Growth

Bill Roth | Wednesday January 21st, 2015 | 0 Comments

6248906736_725218bf2c_zIncome disparity is again a front-page political issue. Credit Suisse projects that in two years the global 1 percent “… Will have more wealth than the remaining 99 percent of the people.” In the U.S., the top 1 percent earns a mean household annual income of $1,318,200. This is approximately 70 times the annual income of the average American worker.

‘The 1 percent’ now own approximately 36 percent of America’s wealth. Most telling, over the last decade the wealth of the top 1 percent earners has grown, while the bottom 80 percent’s wealth fell from approximately 20 percent of the U.S. economy to around 10 percent.

Wealth concentration restricts sustained economic growth

To appreciate how wealth concentration can blunt economic growth, think Czarist (or modern-day) Russia: A lot of poor people and a few wealthy families does not sustain economic growth. Recovery from the Great Depression provides similar insights. The path to economic recovery was not through enriching the rich. It was through enriching the middle class so they had the capital to start businesses and grow families.

Now consider our current economy: The inability of our economy to achieve sustained economic growth is tied to our middle class being mired in 15 years of no real income growth. Our economically-stagnant middle class is restricted in their ability to financially bootstrap and sustain businesses that have always been America’s lifeblood for job and economic growth.

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Poll: Energy Efficiency is America’s No. 1 Housing Concern

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday January 21st, 2015 | 1 Comment

Home InsulationSafety, affordability and privacy – it’s no surprise that these were some of top housing needs identified in a recent national survey of more than 10,000 households. But the No. 1 unmet housing concern, which the Demand Institute that carried out the poll defined as the “satisfaction gap” between what respondents actually have and what they said was important, was not as easily expected: energy efficiency.

Survey respondents were given a list of 52 housing and community concerns and asked to rank them, on a scale of 1 to 10, by how important they felt the issues were and how much their current home satisfied these needs. The result: 71 percent of U.S. households polled placed a great deal of importance on energy efficiency, but only 35 percent felt their homes were very energy efficient with low monthly utility costs (the respondents making up percentages answered these questions with an 8, 9 or 10 ranking).

Based on these numbers, energy efficiency was the housing concern with the largest gap between the rates of importance and satisfaction – beating out consumer needs and wants for updated kitchens, storage space, safe neighborhoods, affordability, landlord responsiveness and more.

Why the strong desire for energy-wise homes?

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What’s Next For CR? Thoughts and Predictions for 2015

3p Contributor | Wednesday January 21st, 2015 | 2 Comments
To kick of 2015, Shannon

To kick off 2015, Shannon Schuyler of PwC participated in a TriplePundit Twitter chat to discuss emerging CSR trends. This week, she’s sharing her predictions for the year to come. 

By Shannon Schuyler, PwC

2014 was a landmark year. Megatrends like demographic shifts, technological breakthroughs and rapid urbanization collided with milestone events — such as India’s 2 percent give-back mandate and the People’s Climate March — to re-shape how the world views businesses’ responsibility in the marketplace.

I recently participated in a Twitter chat, on behalf of PwC and the PwC Charitable Foundation, with TriplePundit and Dave Stangis of the Campbell Soup Co. During the chat, we touched on these issues and how they will impact the way we think and act as responsible business organizations in 2015. While there were many important insights and trends, there are seven that I believe will transform the landscape in 2015.

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A Metamorphosis in Our Midst

3p Contributor | Wednesday January 21st, 2015 | 0 Comments

butterfly1 By Giles Hutchins

We are now settling into 2015 — transformational times, no less, which quite naturally invoke a feeling of trepidation. Tectonic shifts in our socio-economic models, strategic and operational management, and leadership development are metamorphosing our prevalent paradigm into something as different in look and feel as a butterfly is from a caterpillar.

In the early stages of a pupa’s metamorphosis, cells quite different from the caterpillar organize into groups. These ‘imaginal cells’ run up against the opposition of the old caterpillar’s immune system, which perceives them as a threat to the caterpillar’s existence. Over time, as the system of the old caterpillar begins to break down, these new formations spawn forth the structures, processes and logic of the butterfly; ditto for the metamorphosis in our midst.

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Telecoms, Data Center Trends Heighten Climate Risks, Vulnerability

| Wednesday January 21st, 2015 | 0 Comments

GSA climate risk ICT study titleLike water, energy and waste management, digital telecommunications and data centers have become utilities essential for modern societies to function sustainably. It is generally accepted that the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events — and the onset of gradual, long-terms shifts in weather patterns and climate — pose existential threats to critical information and communications technology (ICT) supply chains, as well as infrastructure.

But a recent report from Riverside Technology and Acclimatise found that the business risks of climate change as they relate to telecommunications and data centers are poorly recognized — particularly with respect to infrastructure and supply chains. Similarly, climate change resiliency and adaptation plans in this critical segment of the U.S. ICT sector are poorly developed, concluded the report, which was conducted on behalf of the federal government’s General Services Administration (GSA).

“Despite the importance of these sectors, the climate risk they face is poorly understood. Even less understood are climate risks to the supply chains both sectors rely upon,” the authors of Climate Risks Study for Telecommunications and Data Center Services highlight. Furthermore, though it boosts operational efficiency and the bottom line, the recent trend that has seen more and more companies sharing ICT resources – platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), for instance – increases the vulnerability of critical ICT infrastructure and supply chains to the impacts of extreme weather events and more gradual shifts in climate.

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Pitfalls in Measuring Corporate Sustainability

Sustainable Management at Bard | Wednesday January 21st, 2015 | 2 Comments

Graph With Stacks Of CoinsBy Amy Kalafa

Are you one of those people who gets excited when the price of a Tesla becomes almost affordable, or when you can buy a toothbrush made from recycled plastic, or a lipstick certified cruelty-free? If so, then you may be glad to know that there are a whole host of tools in the business world that give companies a way to report on their corporate sustainability practices.

Business directors are fond of the phrase, “What gets measured gets managed.” According to a 2013 report by KPMG, 86 percent of large American companies use some form of sustainability reporting, up from 74 percent in 2008.

To date, all sustainability reporting in the U.S is voluntary self-reporting, but a growing number of indexed stock portfolios are based on corporate environmental and social governance (ESG) metrics. Firms like MSCI and ENSOGO scrutinize report contents and provide detailed evaluations to stock analysts, and companies that don’t file a corporate sustainability report are now perceived as laggards in corporate citizenship.

The Dow Jones Stock Exchange even has its own index — the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) — for publicly-traded companies.

The field of sustainability reporting is still a bit of a minefield, however, stewing in an alphabet soup of acronyms. Analysts struggle to standardize metrics and measurements.

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Path of First Round-the-World Solar Flight Now Public

Leon Kaye | Tuesday January 20th, 2015 | 0 Comments
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Bertrand Piccard, L, and André Borschberg, R, explain the flight path of Solar Impulse 2 in Abu Dhabi

Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg of Switzerland, who founded Solar Impulse, announced the flight path of Solar Impulse 2 during a press conference today in Abu Dhabi. The project’s latest plane will depart the capital of the United Arab Emirates in late February or early March and will return from this groundbreaking solar flight after flying around the world in late July or early August. The plane’s journey, which could take anywhere from 22,000 to 25,000 miles (35,000 to 40,000 kilometers), intends to fly day and night, 20 hours per flight, using only solar power–while sending a global message about the promise of clean energy and the need to confront the growing risks of climate change.


Solar Impulse route could be anywhere from 22,000 to 25,000 miles.

Solar Impulse has already made impressive history with the organization’s first prototype, which has flown across the United States, Morocco and Europe. The trips’ stops were opportunities for Piccard and Borschberg to evangelize Solar Impulse’s mission. But at a higher level, the two men, who are both engineers and pilots, have long emphasized the need to push the boundaries of renewable energy research and development. Next month’s round-the-world flight will promote their mission even further as they aim to reach out to governments, schools and local media during their upcoming journey—planned to both meet the challenges of geography while carrying out a very geopolitical strategy.

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Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week Launches with Award for Al Gore

Leon Kaye | Tuesday January 20th, 2015 | 0 Comments
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Al Gore speaks during a ZFEP press conference at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.

Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, the annual conference that brings together over 30,000 professionals to meet on issues including energy, water and waste, kicked off yesterday. As always it started with a grandiose opening ceremony and a reminder of the United Arab Emirates’ achievements over the 40+ years since independence.

In addition to the panels, press conferences and massive exhibition halls, the winners of the annual Zayed Future Energy Prize (ZFEP, or the “Oscars” or “Nobel Prize” for clean energy), which included former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, were announced for 2015.

Founded in 2008, ZFEP awards US$4 million in prizes for both achievements and future potential in clean energy development. The committee who decides the final winners recognized Gore for his “unwavering personal and political commitment” to climate change, while constantly expressing optimism that the world community can take on the challenge. Gore said he would divert the US$500,000 cash award to The Climate Change Reality Project, an initiative he founded in 2006 to train activists to speak publicly about climate change’s risks and find more effective ways to communicate them.

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Wind Power, Polar Vortexes and Price Gouging

| Tuesday January 20th, 2015 | 7 Comments

PJM map awea The appearance of the polar vortex in late 2013-early 2014 put much of the U.S. and eastern Canada in a record-setting deep freeze around this time last year, adding another new term to lay-people’s weather-related vocabulary. The polar vortex also stressed power utility grids and generation assets, sending consumer demand and power prices soaring in markets from Texas to New England.

Wind power was a stand-out performer, however. According to study from American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), wind energy saved end-users in the Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic states at least $1 billion during just two polar-vortex days last January.

In these and other regions, AWEA’s Greg Hresko and Michael Goggin highlight: “[W]ind energy provided large quantities of critical electricity supply when it was needed most, keeping the lights on and reducing the impact of these price spikes.” According to their analysis, “[W]ind energy protected Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes consumers from extreme price spikes during the polar vortex event” over just two days in early January 2014, “saving consumers over $1 billion on their electric bills.”

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